Guest Poetry Blog Series # 6 – Introducing the Sixth Contributor, Micheline Maylor – Part One of Two

Calgary-based Canadian poet Micheline Maylor

Styx and Stones

I have a secret wilderness I keep inside, tight as spider-eggs
tucked in for the winter and waiting to be far flung, strung,
then tamped tight as a forest floor. What visions turn to currency?

Now that anger is done, I’ve devastated you like a Wall Street
Banker of a Saturday bender. We all have new traditions now.
Nothing looks like it used to. Get over it. Stuff in tight and remorse.

Hang long memories, cinch those unwanted puppies in the killing sack!
My shoes are milk-thistle kitten heels, almost remorseless almost vast.

Micheline Maylor from The Bad Wife, University of Alberta Press, 2021


I am so pleased to introduce the sixth guest blogger in this new series of poetry blog posts: Cagary-based Canadian poet Micheline Maylor. Part Two of her blog posts will feature the Canadian writer and teacher, Kit Dobson, whose collection of essays, Field Notes on Listening, was published by Wolsak & Wynne in 2022.

As Micheline says below we met at a Patrick Lane retreat quite a few years ago. Such a pleasure to hear her distinctive voice during that retreat (her memorable line: Rabbit, you fucker) and in her three books that have followed: Whirr & Click (2013), Little Wildheart (2017) and The Bad Wife (2021).

You can hear it so clearly in her small but very big poem above. The music. The sprung rhythm. Her memorable lines like her great opener:
I have a secret wilderness I keep inside, tight as spider-eggs. And the startling last two lines:

Hang long memories, cinch those unwanted puppies in the killing sack!
My shoes are milk-thistle kitten heels, almost remorseless almost vast.

I have written major features on Micheline twice before: in 2017 and in April 2022.

So glad to showcase her again in her own thoughtful and honest words. So much hard won wisdom shared below. What words can recover! Thank you hugely, Micheline.

Micheline Maylor’s Introduction

Look up the word recovery and the definition states “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” Richard Osler’s Recovering Wordsspeaks to healing through engagement with poems and writing. When he asked me to guest blog, I wanted to think mainly of how poems aid in recovery through the act of contemplation and what Wordsworth refers to asemotion reflected in tranquility.”

I met Richard Osler at a Patrick Lane retreat, in which Patrick, in his usual subtle way, boomed about bravery at the heart of the poem. What he meant was an emotional courage combined through the lens of craftwork, to which Wordsworth refers. Richard also asked me to introduce and reflect on my own work, here, in this blog. Indeed, at the heart of my latest book, The Bad Wife, lives brave consideration entangled in the craftwork of words, form, and sound. At least I hope so. Further, in the heat of the words, lives a contemplative act, a reflection.

In The Bad Wife, there’s a confession, a redress, and an honouring of a marriage ending and all the complexities that are true. Building poems on such slippery stuff means that one becomes an unreliable narrator, for as many a divorce lawyer will say, there’s his side, her side, and then the truth.

This Bad Wife’s tale is only one truth, but it is a brave truth. One that I think Patrick Lane could have respected as he boomed about bravery in writing. Bravery to look deep inside to hear the ugly, and to contemplate the result of being a flawed human, but also to reveal the wisdom of paradox as both deep love and an inevitable ending live together in story.

I grew up with one foot in Calgary and the other in the great lakes of south Ontario, descended from a ragbag of settlers and mixed-blood voyageurs. My parents are Buddhist-ish (typo intended) and both were artists, through and through. Each of them so talented in sculptural arts, that the only way to make my own was to choose a different genre – 2 dimensional poems. So much was I affected by poems that one of my earliest memories is reading Dr. Seuss. I have a clear memory of that first recognition of words on the page. The, This, Blue, Car.

One fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” In elementary school, I volunteered in the library, learned to shelve by the Dewey decimal system, and made it a goal to read every book on the bottom shelf of the library periphery. I have been the poet laureate of Calgary. I have some awards. But none of these things would have been possible without that sweet first music, without that inward turning, and in that turning and reflecting, and bravery, poetry begins and recovery. The Bad Wife is an act of Recovery. Here is the opening excerpt from the long elegy to my marriage titles. Omen: Calla Lilies.

Omen: Calla Lilies 

			and I should have known, 
having seen them
		in grandma’s wedding photo, 
	the catastrophe of tradition repeating. 
				I should have known, made another arrangement 
for my own bouquet, 
	when I ordered the water, glass, and paper. 

					I should have 
	ordered: Acorns, Arbutus, and Cactus. 
				Thee only do I love, oh.

			I should have paid attention to my own singing, 
				my car-karaoke wisdom. 

And if you don’t love me now, 
		You will never love me again . . . 
		And I tried, I took you to the restaurant 
	with the open-fire kitchen
				and the smoking meat. 

I sat you at the hot-seat bar and said, I need this, I need this. A list. 

No. No. I know I was specific! I’m sure of it. I tried to be a good 

	I said, I need you to love me. And you said, like Popeye, 
					I yam what I yam. 

You said, no. 
	I asked you to love me and you said, 	

			You didn’t say no with one syllable. 

You took many more, 
		pantomimed when necessary,  
				acted it out, one complacency at a time. 

	But I couldn’t imagine Stevie Nicks fucking Popeye. 
		So I ordered more champagne. 

What else could be done?

				We all get trapped in our own habits, 
	don’t we? 
		My habit was no trap, this time. 

				I watched tiny, glass bubbles float back up to space
	And star-dust. 

					None of these details matter. 

		Don’t we, in our habits, get trapped?

Sometimes such small rearrangements mean all the difference. 
					Or could have. 

	The world changed, there at that dinner, the world shifted 

when you said, 
		Either you love me or you don’t. 

And I heard out loud in my head: 
					I guess, I don’t. 

But it all started earlier, in Misty Lake, in July. I asked for it. I looked up
	to the sky and said, make it different. And I meant it all. Not knowing  
		how much all really meant. 

					The holidays, their flowered traditions, 
and home addresses, home changed too, the habits, the anger, 
		the washed out, tepid, infrequent lovemaking, the kitchen knives, 
			the front-yard swing set, 
							things I’ll never see again. 

Because I did not know what this life would ask of me, after that dinner, 
Because loving me was what you should have wanted. 

				What you should have been capable of. 

Because I did not know

				What I could give. 
				Or take. 

What happened to the photos I took of the children? Where did you take them?

To your new emptier home? The children, the photo on the bookshelf dusted 
	with expectations. 

		My strange tiny thoughts. All those leftover details. 
	And me with just me clothes, before you rekeyed all the locks, 
		so you could help me feel 
	the thin fabric of sudden exile. 

And it rippled out from that last October, the man, I think his name was Omen, 
	Owen, you corrected me time and time again, 
		Omen across the street, sold his house and towed his car. 

none of these details matter. 

			It isn’t who we are.

Micheline Maylor from The Bad Wife, University of Alberta Press, 2021


  1. Susan Zimmerman
    Posted December 23, 2022 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    great guest post. I am going to pull The Bad Wife off my shelves…oh those calla lilies!

  2. Richard Osler
    Posted January 4, 2023 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Susan! Hope one day you will write a guest blog!

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